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The Prospects for the Kingdom

May 24, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Mustard Seed Verse: Luke 13:18–13:21

Theme: Despite apparent setbacks God’s purposes for the Kingdom will prevail to great glory.

Introduction: The eternal purposes of God are unthwartable – He will accomplish His will unhindered – cp. 2 Chronicles 20:6; Isaiah 43:13.

I. The Initial Perception of the Kingdom – 13:18-19a

A. The Confusion about the Kingdom – v. 18

  • Jesus picks up the continuation of His teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath after the interruption of the healing of the crippled woman who was demon possessed – “So He was saying …”
  • This continued to be the theme of His teaching – truths about the nature of the Kingdom, entry to the Kingdom, influence of the kingdom and the personal impact of the Kingdom.
  • Jesus states: “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it?”
  • It is essential to realize that the Jewish people thought of the kingdom as something that was a tangible administration of the Messiah on the earth – something that the Old Testament anticipated through many of the prophecies of the Kingdom.
  • They didn’t have much appreciation for an internal or spiritual reign of God – thinking that any “kingdom” that didn’t liberate them from oppression by Gentiles wasn’t worth their time. 
  • Although the earthly reign of Christ in the Millennial Kingdom will indeed occur – and many of the anticipations of the Jewish people will be literally fulfilled in that day, there is a mystery form of the “kingdom” that is spiritual – John 18:36.
  • Later in Luke’s Gospel, he will provide great clarification regarding the spiritual form of the “kingdom” that Jesus is describing in our text through the parables He provides – cp. Luke 17:20-21.
  • It is this spiritual “kingdom of God” – the reign of God in the hearts of men through the Lord Jesus Christ as their Master that Jesus is seeking to describe in the two parables in our text.

B. The Commencement of the Kingdom – v. 19a

  • Jesus masterfully selects a comparison of the “kingdom of God” – “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden …”
  • In this first parable, Jesus instructs us concerning the external, observable characteristics of the “kingdom of God.”
  • In Jesus’ day, the “mustard seed” was the tiniest common seed used by the Jews – cp. Matthew 13:32.
  • Again, it isn’t necessary to attempt to assign an identity to the “man,” the meaning of the fact that he “threw” it, or the location of the “garden.”
  • This is a parable and teaches one essential point that what begins excessively unimpressively expands exponentially into something impressive.
  • The “kingdom of God” begins without much human expectation of success – from the obscurity of the King’s birth, the humble means of the King, to the “failure” of the King at the hands of Rome, to the abandonment of His followers, and the ultimate thing – abandonment by God the Father, the “mustard seed” couldn’t have been smaller!

Application:

  1. In what ways have you worried that God is not in control in your life?
  2. Think through how humble and obscure Jesus’ ministry ended and what thoughts of hope existed? 
  3. Have you had experience seeing God do mighty things out of what looked like a disaster? Identify an example and pray through it to the glory of God.

II. The Inspiring Progress of the Kingdom – 13:19b

A. The Growth of the Kingdom

  • However, the “mustard seed … grew and became a tree …”
  • What seemed unimpressive “became a tree” [δένδρον] – a term that refers to a large, woody plant or tree – and with reference to the “mustard seed,” it can grow to a height of fifteen feet.
  • A growth process occurs that takes the seed and causes it to produce fruit – a process which Jesus guaranteed would happen – cp. Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7.

B. The Greatness of the Kingdom

  • Jesus states that the “tree” grew so large that “the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
  • This is a quote from Ezekiel 17:23 where the Lord is providing a Messianic prophecy of how the Lord will cause birds “of every kind” to come and benefit from the reign of the Messiah in the Millennial Kingdom.
  • From the obscurity of the beginning of the Kingdom in the New Covenant to its fullest form in the Millennium, the Kingdom will become a place where people from all over the world will gather and enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom – cp. cp. Jeremiah 3:17.
  • From its humble beginnings, the reign of Christ in the hearts of men will produce the ultimate kingdom that the prophets envisioned – where the entirety of the world will come and be “nested in its branches” – Micah 4:1-5.

Application:

  1. Think of where you were when you were saved – and how God has worked in your life to transform you. How has a “mustard seed” become a “tree?”
  2. How does Jesus’ assurances that the Kingdom of God will be a worldwide reign affect your hope? 

III. The Influential Penetration of the Kingdom – 13:20-21 

A. The Influence Is Internal – vv. 20-21a

  • Here Jesus reiterates His question and answers it with a different analogy – emphasizing the internal work done by the Lord in the Kingdom: “And again He said, ‘To what shall I compare the kingdom of God.’”
  • Jesus switches His comparison here to refer to “leaven” – a reference to that permeating fermentation that serves as a contagion.
  • Although “leaven” commonly refers to that which is negative, here it is used in a positive sense – a reference to the Kingdom’s influence and permeation.
  • Consistent with the initial unimpressiveness of the Kingdom described by the mustard seed, here Jesus emphasizes that a small piece of leavened dough can permeate a large piece of unleavened dough – “three pecks of meal” – to make it rise.
  • When Jesus describes the woman as having “hid in three pecks of flour” – He is emphasizing the focus or venue in which the leaven works – internally.
  • “three pecks of flour” is about 50 lbs and demonstrates that time is needed for the “leaven” to do its job.

B. The Influence Is Insuppressible – v. 21b

  • Jesus clearly demonstrates absolute confidence in the mission He came to enable – the establishment of the kingdom in which every person walked in righteousness – cp. Matthew 16:18.
  • The work of the Kingdom will be performed “until it was all leavened.”
  • This is applicable into two ways:
  1. The work that God does to bring an individual believer to full conformity to the King – the Lord Jesus Christ is an internal work – transforming souls and renewing our minds after the likeness of Christ – cp. 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Philippians 1:16.
  2. The work that God does to bring all of history to the culmination of the kingdom of God on the earth through the future Millennial Kingdom of the Lord – cp. Romans 8:18-21; Acts 3:19-21.
  • We know that the mighty, unthwartable eternal purposes of God continue to march forward to the ultimate fulfillment – both in our own hearts as well as in the exercise of Providence throughout this world – culminating in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ being catastrophically imposed upon those who dwell on the earth in the last days.

Application:

  1. How does God’s forgiveness of your sins display God’s value for you?
  2. In what ways does your life demonstrate your own efforts and what ways does it demonstrates God’s work?
  3. When was the last time someone noticed that God was at work in your life?

Considerations:

- Despite how difficult life may seem to you, God is working to fulfill His eternal purposes not only in your own life, but in His work in the world!

- We must not allow ourselves to live for the current moment – but with an eternal perspective – understanding that this life is fleeting and temporary.

- God can do great things with insignificant things – like the mustard seed, you are never too small to be used by God to bring Himself great glory.

- Your life is able to be of great influence in the lives of those around you as “kingdom leaven” – drawing men to Christ through both how you live and what you say to proclaim the Gospel. 

- Are you striving to be used of the Lord in the lives of both other believers as well as the lost?

Application:

  1. Is spiritual growth always immediately visible? Meditate on how God works to strengthen you slowly through His Word.
  2. What is the practical impact of focusing on internal spiritual growth over external demonstrations of your spiritual strength?
  3. When can you anticipate the “leaven” of the Kingdom to influence the entirety of the “flour?” 

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